Companies are increasingly struggling to afford office space and hire and pay talented employees in expensive cities. More and more, employees want flexibility and choice in their work—to be near family, to be rid of time-consuming commutes, to have lower costs of living. These operating costs and hiring pressures—paired with an explosion of in-home broadband access, smart phones, and cloud-based tools—make remote work an intriguing option for a growing number of companies. But anyone who has spent enough time working remotely knows that it is an ongoing and dynamic series of tradeoffs for everyone involved.
Luckily, the people contributing to this guide have been involved in remote work for over a decade. We’ve been at large companies with work-from-home policies, hybrid companies navigating the complex interactions of offices and remote employees, to all-remote startups that don’t have any offices. We’ve seen how remote work can unblock hiring obstacles, save money, and provide employees with more satisfying, meaningful, and healthy careers. We’ve also seen dysfunctions in nearly every domain, from treating remote work as a privilege for a select set of people, to isolated, burnt-out workers left to their own devices. Those trying to build effective remote teams can benefit from these experiences, and avoid costly mistakes.
We believe remote work is a viable and important element of modern work that stands to reshape significant aspects of how companies, employees, and economies function. With the right foundations and practice, companies and employees can approach this complex, ever-changing landscape with knowledge and confidence.
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dangerWhen thinking about remote work, both startups and larger companies often look to other, often famous, companies for inspiration. But you are (probably) not GitLab or Basecamp, and “just use the GitLab handbook” can be inappropriate advice. The approach to remote work that you want is not necessarily the same. Each company’s size, growth, philosophies, and financial outlook may be very different from those of other companies. And if you’re an employee, one company’s handbook or philosophy won’t necessarily help you succeed elsewhere. We can learn a lot from seemingly successful remote companies, but we shouldn’t blindly copy them.
confusionTerminology about remote work is fraught with debate and inconsistency. Despite the fact that there’s a growing movement behind using the term distributed over remote—notably, viewing team members as remote can have hierarchical implications about what is “central” and what is not—for the purposes of this guide we will use “remote work” throughout to refer to the broad category, and draw distinctions about fully distributed companies or teams when relevant.
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